A recently divorced, early retiree accidentally burns down his house on the day he pays off the mortgage, only to discover that an uncharacteristic oversight has pitted him against an impassive corporate bureaucracy. An old friend of his, a middleaged musician, enters into a final negotiation with the pain of esophageal cancer. Her father, who left his family years ago to practise Buddhism in Nepal, ends his days in a facility for Alzheimer’s patients. These three are tied together by a book called The World, written by the old man in his youth.
Possibly autobiographical, the book tells the story of a historian who unearths a cache of letters, written in Chinese, in an abandoned leper colony off the coast of Victoria. He and the young Chinese translator fall in love, only to betray each other in the cruelest way possible, each violating what the other reveres most.
Magnificently written, structurally daring, and a masterful blend of imagination and observation, The World is arguably the greatest achievement so far of Bill Gaston’s career.
BILL GASTON is the author of seven novels and six collections of short fiction. He teaches at the University of Victoria and is the winner of numerous awards, including the 2003 inaugural Timothy Findley Lifetime Achievement Award and the CBC/Canadian Literary Award. Mount Appetite, one of his collections of short stories, was shortlisted for the 2002 Giller Prize, and another, Gargoyles, was shortlisted for the 2006 Governor General’s Award for Fiction. His most recent novel, The World, won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and his most recent story collection, Juliet Was a Surprise, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction.
"Oh, is this a book! What stories, what writing, what feeling, what depth, what humour.. If it's possible to cram a world of human existence into a single piece of CanLit, and to do so with grace, understatement, wry humour, respect and love, then Bill Gaston has done just that." - The Globe and Mail